Living in this world of different learning communities, it is important to have an open mind to gaining a better understanding of the individuals we serve by becoming advocates of change. The learning community that I serve is 3-year old’s and their families. In an Early childhood education program, each student’s developmental growth is vital information to obtain. The agency that I work for is a renowned agency that serves Tulsa, Oklahoma, “CAP Tulsa, also known as Community Action Project of Tulsa County, is one of the largest anti-poverty agencies in Oklahoma” (CAPTULSA, 2012-2016). The McClure school is the second largest school and has 19 classrooms ranging from 6-week-old up to 4 years old for CAP Tulsa. McClure has a variety of cultures that bring a diverse community from the growth of Burmese refugee families, Hispanics, White, African-American, Nigerian, Indian, Russian, and more in the past few years. “Per State Department data, 80 percent of the refugees or 2,091 of 2,986, who have arrived in Oklahoma between 2003 and 2015 are Burmese” (Keeping, 2016) because of the Burmese growth our community is still gaining information in making connections with families and assisting with resources. One difficulty the community has been facing is the language barrier as there are seven dialects of Zomi.
For the community of educators, the state of Oklahoma presented “A proposal that would cut 142 Tulsa Public Schools teaching position and significantly increase class sizes to reduce the district’s budget by $8 million next year was announced on Wednesday” (Eger, 2016) causing many professionals and families to stress about outcomes.
The Educator’s Impact
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As an educator, it is important to discuss the experiences that are provided in my current classroom that originate from personal experiences. I was born in Columbia, South Carolina who attended a diverse school setting in my elementary years. Most of my friends were from different culture backgrounds. I was raised in a single parent home with my mother who took care of my brother and I. Even though my mom had a full-time job she was often sick and had to have three open heart operations. The first two surgeries happened while I attended elementary school in South Carolina. So, my brother and I had to stay with other family members until she got well. We moved to Oklahoma when I was twelve years old so that my mom could further her education. The transition was very hard for me because I had no family and I had to attend a school where the majority of the students were white and for the most part I was the only African American in most of my classes. I didn’t make any friends and often kept to myself because I felt like I didn’t belong or fit in. I adjusted in my eighth year after joining committees and social clubs to gain social skills and became more comfortable around my peers. My mother took ill again and had to have her third heart surgery while we were living in Oklahoma. She eventually recovered, and we moved to South Tulsa. We moved to some low-income apartments because my mom didn’t have a job and she just started to receive disability and government assistance while attending school. I also got a job at fifteen as a cashier to help pay the bills around the house since money was not flowing in steady enough. My mom is a strong and great woman who didn’t let her illness stop her. She would volunteer at the low-income school my brother went to in the same neighborhood that we abide in. She eventually got her bachelor’s and graduated even though we lived in poverty she took the best care of us as much as she could. I look up to my mother as a role model because she didn’t let her sickness hinder her from the task she wanted to complete. Even though we didn’t have much my mother kept my brother and I focused and made sure we obtained an education like she did. Going through this struggle made me stronger as an adult and I can relate and have empathy for people who live in poverty.
This experience was tough but educational. The concept that early childhood education is just about the same culture shock for parents and students allows me as the educator to acknowledge the fear, questions, and to provide an environment that is safe. Educationalists should provide a positive atmosphere for all learners to build a healthy relationship that will foster great connections. So, I can relate to my families and children in having to receive assistance and go through difficult challenges because I grew up living in poverty.
The strengths that I have for my classroom setting is being able to adapt to new concepts. For example, everyone is given the opportunity to portray and facilitate with teaching staff in implementing a more diverse culture in the school. Community Action Project supports staff growth by providing a lot of resources. The plan that I would like to implement in my classroom is completing parent teacher conference with parents and setting goals for the growth of their child. Also, having families be more involved in the school. One area of growth would be to learn about the effects that multi-generation homes face as challenges and providing help with evaluation in communication through materials for our Burmese families. Another problem that can provide barriers in providing a classroom that demonstrate equality is if the co-teacher or parent is not on the same understanding as being open minded about changes in the environment or approach towards others. Communication is the leading cause of improvement, but one must be flexible as there is not one method of education.
Educational Norms/Professional Interactions
I feel that the best method of communication is through face interactions with our families. From teacher to families the best practice is through face to face, newsletters, phone calls, parent-teacher conferences, and home visits. We also incorporate daily behavior sheets to let parents know how their child’s day went. Developing an action plan that advocates for children should be modeled by teaching staff. Integrating common language in all five native languages can also influence teaching staff in utilizing words gained to better reach students and parents. For example, in our Dual Language learner box, we have incorporated vocabulary words in different languages in which the students speak. Students have the opportunity to speak a different language throughout the school day. Since I have learned about my parents and students culture, I can have parents involved by coming to class to teach staff and students their language and how to pronounce the words. My student’s attitude toward learning the new languages was a positive experience as well as fun. Students can obtain cultural awareness and understanding of differences. As an educator, I can get the respect to someone else’s language with a better understanding. A second activity that can be incorporated into a 3-year-old classroom setting would be to present Sesame Street We’re Different, We’re the Same. This book helps to explain to the reader that although we may be different on the outside, we’re the same on the inside (Kates, 1992). After reading this story, I can offer an activity of having students to touch their eyes, ears, nose as well as other parts of their bodies that are similar but not the same among us. Also, this will help with knowledge of self and show basic understanding of diversity. First part of creating knowledge of self is to offer baby dolls of different ethnicities to do a baby doll circle time and encourage students to point out their baby dolls unique characteristics to share with peers.
There is a concern on the nature of the childhood which is changing in the 21st century (French, 2007, p.6). As educators, we interact with students on daily basis and should make them feel safe and welcome. Three-year-olds feel more assured with a consistent routine in the classroom. The best way to stimulate interest in learning in a pre-school stage is for parents and teachers to pose curiosity questions and pay attention to what your child loves to learn about which will open a knowledge gap that a child will need to fulfill (Bruce, 2004). It is essential to share activities in which children like to play with and that will encourage the child to ask and answer questions from activities they are engaged in. As an educator, our set of beliefs and experiences become our students’ views on how we treat each other. In my classroom, I set 6 expectations in which is our daily language to follow. The 6 expectations are sharing, soft touches, walking feet, kind words, listening ears, and clean-up. 3-years-olds students are l learning in the environment as educators are helping them become more self-aware of their actions. My plan as an educator is to be careful of how I address behaviors in the classroom by supporting student’s social and emotional growth. A child develops through the relationship within the society, community, and neighborhood and within the family but not in isolation (French, 2007, p.9). Learning, especially by children, is influenced by social-historical contexts in which they are engaged. This affects their cognitive development and is best described by Vygotskian approach which refers to it as social constructivism. Therefore, another approach would be to master the behavior of each child. I would encourage private speech in which the child appears to be talking to somebody when in essence; they are talking to themselves out noticeably. Private speech can be referred to as talk that is audible to an outsider but is only directed to the speaker and not to other listeners. Children especially of elementary level benefit the most from private speech because it serves as a precursor to verbal thinking. Verbal thinking therefore serves as function of learning when advanced mental capacities are not yet fully developed (Winser et. al, 2007).
Private speech serves a very important function in the classroom, it helps the children to regulate and monitor their behavior. As a result, the children are calmer while still learning. Symbolic/dramatic play is another way to develop their mental and learning capabilities. I do this by incorporating games like charades that requires both non-verbal cues and an active imagination. This is most conducive for elementary children because they are the ones who benefit the most. I picked charades because it involves the use of imagination, taking up roles and has clearly defined rules. The rules are extremely important in teaching the children responsibilities and the consequences of neglecting them. Therefore, the children are reminded of the rules when they start playing and also when they fail to follow them. Free-flowing games/play is important in eliminating differences such as social background or knowledge gaps. Therefore, the children play in a safe environment and fairly (Bruce, 2004).